A senior Interior Ministry official on Monday warned all Cambodian women hired to carry the babies of foreign couples, as well as those couples and their brokers, to identify themselves to authorities or risk criminal prosecution.
“If they come forward now, they can continue to work with any hospitals that they have been using” for health checkups and deliveries, said Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry and vice chair of the government’s committee to fight human trafficking.
“If they try to hide from us, it means it is a crime.”
The warning widens the net of a similar pronouncement Ms. Bun Eng made last month that officials were seeking the clients and mothers hired by arrested Australian broker Tammy Davis-Charles.
Ms. Davis-Charles and two of her Cambodian associates—Penh Rithy, 28, a Commerce Ministry officer, and nurse Samrithchan Chariya, 35—were arrested in Phnom Penh last month by anti-human trafficking police who said they had spent 10 months investigating her business, Fertility Solutions PGD.
Couples that hired Cambodian surrogate mothers through Ms. Davis-Charles were encouraged to identify themselves, with officials saying they could take their children home if they stepped forward and took responsibility for them.
But no prospective parents had yet presented themselves, Ms. Bun Eng said.
Now, authorities were searching for other agencies, and meeting embassies other than Australia’s to search out foreign couples who had hired surrogates, she said.
“We want to know who else is doing this. We don’t know how many agencies and companies and people have come to Cambodia to do this,” she said.
Authorities charged Ms. Davis-Charles and her associates with fraudulently requesting documents and acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman, but are now threatening to additionally charge Ms. Davis-Charles with human trafficking if she does not hand over the names of her clients.
The names were required as proof of the arrangements between Ms. Davis-Charles and the children’s biological parents, Ms. Bun Eng said.
“We hope that she will cooperate with us. If not, she will be charged,” she said. “We would charge her for trafficking the babies because they don’t have definite parents.”
Ms. Bun Eng’s warning followed a report of a baby born to a surrogate mother being abandoned when its intended parents did not come to collect it, according to a Fairfax Media article on Sunday. Ms. Bun Eng said she was not aware of the case.
Ms. Davis-Charles’ son, Dylan Charles, who works as a consultant with her business, said the birth was not linked to his mother’s company.
“I can confirm for you that the child that was left behind was definitely not one of Mum’s families,” he said in a message.
“Our level of care is much greater than that, to ever let something as terrible as that happen,” he added.
Mr. Charles said Cambodian women hired by his mother’s firm were receiving ongoing care.
“[The] surrogates are a little stressed but are being taken care of, they are getting paid still also,” he said. “The sooner this is over, the safer for them and the babies.”
(Additional reporting by Sonia Kohlbacher)